Jeff's Guide to Cable Cutting - Episode 2
There have been several developments since my first installment in this series.
Comcast jacked up our internet rate so I had to drop to a slightly lower data tier to get below $65 a month. Apparently they no longer offer promotions unless you buy some kind of cable from them. Well I've already taken their former cable wire to use for my central antenna so I'm not going to undo all of that work. I called AT&T about Uverse and pricing is worse than Comcast. 3 MBPS costs $29, 6 MBPS costs $39 and 12 MBPS costs $49. On Comcast, I'm getting 24 MBPS for $65 so for now we stick with Comcast, especially in light of the poor reliability of Uverse when you're more than 2500 feet from the fiber cabinet. And yes, our house is more than 2500 feet from At&t's closest fiber cabinet.
Mohu Sky Antenna...
Last Wednesday, every channel went pixelated during the wind storm so I ordered a better antenna online. Yesterday I got my Mohu Sky HDTV antenna deliverd from Amazon. We can now get CBET channel 9 from Windsor. I've moved the outdoor antenna to the southeast corner of the house in the hope of putting it closer to the weaker signals and this, along with the Mohu sky has worked. I had plans to put it above the roof line but as an intermediate step, I put it on exposed wood between the first and second floors. Seems good enough for now. Time will tell.
This is more of a work in progress. I picked up a HDhomerun dual box and it worked well... until I hooked up the Mohu Sky antenna. So I've got some debugging to do but we should soon have full OTA DVR capabiity, driving the last nail in Comcast's coffin. There is a $20 a year TV guide subscription that might prove unnecessary because I can set recordings via TitanTV's web interface. I can even set DVR recordings remotely from my iPad and iPhone. Isn't this one of the things Xfinity, Dish and Uverse try to sell you? I look forward to getting my RF setup debugged so I can get Eyetv/HDhomerun back up and running. There isn't a lot on I want to record that isn't already on Hulu but I'd like to have that stuff fixed before Thanksgiving.
Update 1: I got the DVR working again. While all the tvs in the house could handle the signal level put out by the leftover Comcast amplifier, it seems the DVR could not. First I connected the old RadioShack antenna to the DVR and it got everything but channels 9 and 38 so I knew something was amiss with the wiring. I replaced a 40 foot run of RG6 thinking it was defective but alas still no signal. Just for grins I bypassed the old Comcast signal amplfier and everything is now working on all TVs with just the signal put out by the Mohu Sky amplifier. I needed the Comcast amp back when I had the $30 Radio Shack antenna. Now it just gets in the way. Oh well, one less brick to leave plugged in.
My wife saw an ad on TV for Rabbit TV. It sounds like a good deal for 10 bucks. Well it is and it isn't. First of all, you get nothing with Rabbit TV you wouldn't get for free anyway. The only thing Rabbit TV does is "aggregate" free stuff into a single user interface. Plex already does this so I see no reason to take on a $10 a year subscription for Rabbit TV.
Update 1: Still I think the Rabbit folks are on to something. Watching TV on the internet needs to be dirt simple. Push a big up or down button and that's it. There's no big up or down buttons to jump back and forth from Hulu to PBS.org to Crackle. At least not yet.
Update 2: DVR Software: I mentioned TitanTV in this post and I think it's time to explain a bit about cable cutting software. First there's TitanTV which puts up a local program guide in your browser or in one of their iOS or Android apps. Secondly there's TvFool.com which puts up a graph that shows signal strength for your area. Lastly there's some sort of DVR software. On my Mac, I use Elegato EyeTV. EyeTV can use a number of hardware tuners but the one I've picked is HDHomerun. TitanTV allows me to schedule recordings from the browser or their mobile apps as long as I've left my EyeTV software running on my Mac. One down side to EyeTV is activation. One down side of TitanTV is the need to create an account. The last 2 things I need right now are more software DRM key numbers to think about and yet another in a long line of internet accounts, but it's worth it to have almost free DVR service. EyeTV came with my $99 HDhomerun so you could say it was free rather than paying the $79 retail price.
Careful about HDhomerun. The one you want is HDhomerun dual or the soon to be released (December 2013) HDhomerun dual with transcoding ($169). HDhomerun Prime ($199) is for those who are sick of Comcast's box but don't mind paying $10 a month for a cable card so they can receive EVERY SINGLE CHANNEL. Yes, that's right. An important part of our cable cutting decision was Comcast's ill-advised move to encrypt EVERYTHING so that all those clear QAM TVs no longer work.
This is really what started pushing us to cable cutting. When we first got cable, it "just worked." Any TV could receive any channel (other than pay channels) and there was no box rental to deal with. And reliability was much better in those days when blocking a channel meant Comcast installed a notch filter at the pole. Nowadays Comcast, and other providers as well are encrypting everything. Another major factor is the power consumption of their box. The DVR box provided by Comcast consumes the second highest power in the home after air conditioning. Yes it's that bad. So a Mac mini running EyeTV is FAR more efficient than Comcast's box ever was. I could probably talk myself into allowing one of Comcast's "mini" boxes back in our house but they require us to get the big power hungry DVR box just to get a discount on internet. Not worth it in my opinion.